October 29, 2010

Tracking down Ghosts, Part I


For the second time that day I woke up to the phone ringing. At least this time the caller waited until the sun went down. I stood and answered the call, holding the phone between my ear and shoulder as I got dressed.

"Whats going on Tommy."
The werewolf on the other end of the line sounded tired and suspicious. Welcome to my world.
 "Pack get there okay?"
I strapped on my holster. "Not sure. I haven't been up stairs yet. But I imagine if they didn't, the others would have let me know by now."
"Good.." He paused. I frowned and grabbed the sheaths for my knives, two of them now lined with silver, just in case.
"You gonna talk or sit there and imagine me half naked? I hate to tell ya, but I'm putting clothes on, not taking them off." I slid the knives into their respective homes. My voice held an annoyed edge that put a little more bite into the words.

"Mona is the new Seneschal of New Orleans...under a fake name, as a member of the Lancea Sanctum." Tommy said, finally.
I nearly choked on the next smart ass remark that was on its way out of my mouth. It came out as a barking laugh. But Tommy wasn't laughing. Hell, Tommy sounded downright bleak.
I scowled silently at the phone and sunk down onto the foot of the bed. "And this is something that bothers you, I take it?"
"He's gaining more and more influence. I'm just waiting for the day when the power corrupts.. if it hasn't already." He said in a low voice.

I rubbed my eyes with my thumb and forefinger. This could be bad. The guys down in New Orleans didn't like Giuseppe. The feeling was mutual, but this level of suspicion could lead them to fuck up Giuseppe's plans, just out of spite. If he had finally managed to get someone of his into a position of power in New Orleans, I wasn't about to let Tommy or Karl fuck it up because they lacked the ability to understand anything but black and white. I also wondered why Tommy was calling me about this. He knew I had a relationship with Giuseppe that was significantly more positive then anyone else in our group, and he wasn't really the type to call someone to get them to talk him out of anything.

Which meant he had another motive for calling me about this. Beyond keeping me up to date on what was going on. I resisted the urge to bitch him out. It wouldn't help. I decided to take a different route.

I sighed. "Look, Tommy. I know you guys aren't fond of Giuseppe."
Tommy grunted.
"But give it a chance." I continued.  "He hasn't gone off the deep end, and if he's doing this, you know he has something important in mind. If he's turned into one of the bad guys.. you'll find that out soon enough. But if he hasn't, and you blow the whistle on his charade, there is no going back. You could fuck up something that would have helped everyone. You don't trust him, I get that.. but don't jump the gun. He has good intentions, believe it or not."
There was a pause as Tommy considered what I had said.
"It makes me nervous that he's building up so much power, so fast."
I sighed, my voice sounded strained and tired. "His methods may be less than savory, but he's effective, and so far, our goals have lined up pretty well. I'm not asking you to trust him. But give it some time."
"And if he has let the power go to his head?" Tommy asked, searching.

Ah. That was his agenda. He was trying to gauge my loyalty. My connection to Giuseppe made him nervous, and he wanted to figure out just how much I'd support my sire.

I lowered my voice to barely more than a whisper, my tone serious. "Then you won't be the only one after him."
Tommy considered that for a few heartbeats. "Alright. I'll talk to Karl, see if I can talk him out of telling the world. Let me know how the hunt for Stepping Feather goes."
I muttered ascent and hung up the phone.

I sat there for a minute, contemplating the call. I was annoyed, and worried. It annoyed me that Tommy was so concerned about my intentions.. and it worried me that he and Karl might feel the need to fuck up what I knew to be Giuseppe's very carefully laid plans. But there wasn't a lot I could do from here, except pretend to be opening up to Tommy a little, and hope he took my word for it. He was too trusting, but I could used that to my advantage.

Of course, if I were being honest with myself, I'd realize that it wasn't completely an act. There was that little voice in the back of my head, the one that had the same fears as Tommy.. but every night, my vision went a little less black and white.. a little more gray, and the voice got quieter. I'm not sure if that was a good or bad thing, but I ignored it, either way. I trusted Giuseppe. I wouldn't be so willing to help if I didn't. He and Mona had become family, and I'd rather walk out in the noon day sun than let anything happen to either of them.

I stood and finished prepping. My movements were short and angry. I was ravenously hungry, moreso than I usually allow myself to get. I shut the door behind me and went upstairs, furiously shutting out the soft voice in the back of my head that was asking me to tally up all the people who had ever killed me.


I leaned my head into each room and beckoned the others join me in the lab. Ori was asleep on the couch and wouldn't rouse when I called him.. or slugged him.. so I grabbed a magic marker from the lab and waved it under his nose until he sat bolt upright, sputtering and pawing at his forehead. I tossed the marker into his lap.
"Wake up. I'd just hate to have to use that thing again. Come on."
Ori followed me into the lab, grumbling.

We sat around one of Gio's tables as he worked on one of his projects with a small blow torch. I sat at the far side of the table from him.

"Karl called me this morning. " I said without preamble.

Gio looked up sharply and flipped up his welding goggles. He put one hand on the torch value, making the flame a bit smaller. "Doesn't that.. never happen?"
I nodded. "He had important news. They found out who Stone's son is."
"Oh yeah? Who?" Gio asked, the others watched me intently.

I met Giovanni's eyes and held his gaze. "Thomas Mattheson."

Giovanni's hand spasmed on the value of the torch and it flared suddenly, setting the entire table top on fire. I jumped back faster than I thought possible, chair clattering loudly to the floor.

"Jesus H. Christ, Giovanni!" I snarled. I was glad I'd chosen the far side of the table.

"I'm going.. to kill him." He said in a quiet voice.
Ori grabbed Gio's hand and angled the torch upward, and off the table, then put out the flames. "Weren't you already going to kill him?"
"I'm going to kill him.. slowly." Giovanni all but growled.

"Is the pack here?" I changed the subject away from one that caused Giovanni to light shit on fire in my presence.
Gio exhaled slowly, then his eyes rolled into the back of his head for a moment, before he shook himself and nodded. "All but Larissa."

"Okay. I'll be back." I headed towards the door. As an afterthought, I poked my head back into the room. "Oh, and Mona is the new Seneschal of New Orleans."

I left the surprised laughter behind me and went out in search of prey.


I wasn't in the mood for the usual seduce-some-guy-at-a-bar act. I was too angry. Too hungry to be that subtle. I was worried, anxious, pissed, and annoyed. I needed to hunt in a way that I hadn't done in quite some time.

It didn't take me long to find a lone drunk staggering down the road, and even less time to see the shadow that detached itself from a small alcove and followed the guy into the alley. I waited until the mugger had the drunk pushed up against the wall to jump his ass.

And I missed with the first grab. The mugger spun to face me, letting the drunk slide to the alley floor.
"What the fuck?" He pulled out a gun. And then he shot me.

Or shot at me, in any case.

I was pissed now. I flowed around the bullets like water and rushed the fucker. I twisted his gun arm back behind him in a hammer lock, spared a glance at the drunk, who thankfully, had passed out, and sunk fangs into the asshole's neck.

My throat convulsed, trying to take in as much blood as I could, as quickly as I could. I nearly lost myself to it, at one point. The compulsion to take too much, to keep drinking that warm, coppery sustenance until there was nothing left was so strong it was painful. I could compare it to someone eating a huge steak dinner after fasting for 3 days, but that didn't even come close. It was more like a drug fix a week into your withdrawal symptoms.

It was a hunger.. an addiction.. and it was the only thing that actually made me feel alive.

And when I tore myself away from it, it felt like I was ripping out a fucking rib. The need hit me like a physical force.. but I did my best to ignore it, sealed the wound, and let the mugger slip bonelessly to the asphalt. His face was pale, his lips looked almost bloodless... but he was alive.

But I was still hungry, dammit. I found myself staring at the drunk man, unconscious on the ground. But I forced myself to stride purposefully away, instead. I had work to do tonight, and his blood was too diluted with alcohol to allow me to think straight. So I walked out of the alleyway, and called an ambulance for my little anemic friend. I'd taken enough that he would probably need medical care. But he'd live. I stuck around long enough to confirm the sounds of sirens, then started walking back to the lab.


I focused on the problem at hand in order to shut out the pulsing hunger. I didn't have time to find anyone else tonight.

Stepping Feather had gone to places he'd either already been, or we'd already been. Of course, all the places he'd been, we'd been too. Was he having some phantom memories? I'd like to think that, but it seemed unlikely.

What was much more likely was the idea that he was following the scents he found at his grave. We'd all been there, as had the members of his pack. It would explain why he'd gone to the lab, before he'd seen the note. He followed our trail there.

Which meant.. we had a place to start looking.. well.. places.

I quickened my pace.


I hurried into the shop and back to the lab. Ori stood in the doorway to the kitchen, shoving beef jerky in his mouth. "Well aren't you looking fat and happy. Had a bite?" he said through a mouthful of food.
I arched a brow at him. "Pot calling kettle?"
He held out a piece of dried meat and grinned at me. "Want some? I found it on top of the fridge."
Giovanni looked up sharply and choked back a laugh before continuing his work. Ori just gave him a perplexed frown at continued to eat.

The pack appeared in the doorway, joining the loose circle we were forming around Giovanni's work table. I didn't waste any time getting down to business.

"Judging by the places we've already spotted Stepping Feather, or seen evidence of his passing, we can assume that he's tracking the scents that he picked up at his grave site. It's more plausible than fragmented memories, at this point." I pulled a street map I'd grabbed on my way back out of my coat and laid it out flat on the table. Gio handed me a red marker. I started marking through the places he'd already been with a big red X.

"How do we know he's following our scents?" Nobody asked, skeptical.
I shrugged and tried to feel as confident as I was pretending to be. "We don't.. but its the only lead we have right now. If we don't assume it, then we have no idea where to start looking." I turned to Nadi, standing quietly next to Becca, who was making a point to look everywhere except at Roxanne. The werewolf seemed obliged to do the same. "Once we find him, will you be able to give him his memories back using that journal?"

Nadi pulled the slender notebook out. "I'll have to ask my sister.."
I nodded and looked back down at the map. We'd been all over the city. We had a lot of ground to cover. Call her. We're going to need the help."

Nadi pulled out her cell and dialed a number. She had a brief conversation then looked up at Giovanni, snapping the phone shut. "Open the door."
Giovanni nodded, got s distant look in his eyes for a brief moment, then Alexandria was standing in the middle of the room with us. A growl bubbled up from Roxanne's very human throat, somehow making it more menacing than it would have been if she were in a wolf form. But she didn't say a word to Alexandria, and Nadi's sister said nothing to her.

"Okay.. we've got a few key locations that we should probably hit. We've been all over town, but some places more than others. I think we should focus on the places that all of us have been. Or at least, most of us." I circled five separate areas of the map. "The Santore Tower, Maury's place, The Library, The Shedd, and Cook County. If anyone can think of any others, feel free to speak up."

No one said a word. They looked thoughtfully at the map.

Larissa (who, consequently, was not looking at the map) sighed. "He has been speaking with Spirits of darkness.."
Ori's face paled. "Oh shit..."
Larissa frowned at him, and I had a feeling she rolled her eyes, but I coudln't tell from behind her sunglasses. "It's not like that. They are like any other spirit.. not inherently evil.. but it will make finding him much more difficult."
I smirked to myself, examining areas of the map. I flicked a glance at Ori. "Shadows have their uses."
He snorted and crossed his arms. "Yeah. Skullduggery." He said with a scowl.
My lips twitched into a brief smile. "I like to think of them as stealthy shenanigans.."

"We will have to split up.." Nadi remarked quietly, interrupting Ori's response.
I nodded. "Yeah.. don't want too.. but its the easiest way to manage it. Who wants to go where?"

After a bit of discussion, we decided that Becca and Ori would go to the Library, Giovanni and Roxanne would go to the tower, Alexandria and Nadi would go to Maury's, Nobody and Larissa would go to the Shedd (there was some debate on that one, but I had no desire to go back over there right now, vampire territory or not.), and Davareaux and I would head to the Asylum.

"Only one of us can have the journal.. what do we do if we find him?" I asked, looking to his pack.

"Try to hold there as long as you can, and call us." Davareaux said, his voice grave.
Larissa tilted her head to one side and went still for a moment.."There.. now we are all connected. Will your thoughts to the others, and we will hear it." She turned and looked at me before I could even speak, smiling slightly. "And don't worry.. we can only hear what you choose for us too."

Everyone nodded, somber and serious. No one said what everyone was thinking.

We'd lost him so many times already, how the fuck were we going to slow him down this time?


(((note: the next few scenes happen nearly simultaneously, for the sake of the story, the scenes Harper wasn't directly in will be in third person. This will be divided up into two separate posts, due to its length.)))

Ori and Becca walked up the familiar steps to the Library. Becca held a collar and leash in her hands, just in case Ori needed to get wolfy. No sense in getting detained because of a leash law violation while on a time sensitive investigation.

"Hey, while we're here, we can check out that new issue of Highlights." Ori said lightly, falling back on his usual distraction when he as nervous- humor.
"Hell yeah.. I'm behind." Becca said without missing a beat.

They noticed something was off almost immediately. There was no guard the door. They exchanged a look, and Ori put one hand on the door, pushing it open slowly. It swung inward on silent hinges.

The Library interior looked normal. Some of the lights were out, but it was after hours, and that wasn't unusual. Lights still burned in the upstairs, were Volkas would be hard at work. Ori's nostrils flared.

Familiar scents came to him.. burnt coffee, newsprint.. and the familiar but distinctly out of place smell of fresh blood. He bolted up the stair, Becca only a few steps behind him.

The smell of blood became stronger, and when they rounded the corner, they discovered why. Volkas lay on the floor, a small pool of blood forming around his head. His chair was fallen to the side, a few newspapers scattered, but for the most part he seemed to have been caught unawares. Had he struggled, had there been an actual fight, the place would have been torn to shreds. He was breathing shallow breaths, alive, but completely unconscious.

Becca leaned down and picked up the plastic handle to the coffee carafe, now only adorned with broken glass. She looked at Ori, eyes wide. "What the hell happened?"

"Not sure.. but.." He crouched next to Volkas and looked at the head wound. "He shouldn't still be out. The wound looks mostly healed... that's weird, right?"
Becca shrugged. "I'unno. I'm not a medic."

Hey Harper.. He look like he's gonna be okay to you? Why's he still unconscious? Ori projected his thoughts through the link Larissa had established, holding the image of Volkas in his mind for her reference.

The contusion looks mostly healed.. and there really isn't that much blood. If he was human, I might be worried about a concussion.. but he's not. From here, it looks like he'll be fine. Harper answered, almost immediately.

Ori stood, perplexed frown crossing his face. "Lets look around. If he was only hit with the coffee maker, he'll be fine.. maybe he'll be awake when we come back up."

They made their way through the library, hyper aware of every little sound, every small movement, even though they both knew that if Stepping Feather wished it, they'd see neither before he jumped them.  All the guards but one were unconscious, slumped over in chairs, sitting leaned against walls.. out, but not injured.

One guard though, was feeling his way along the wall, eyes open, but unseeing. He looked frustrated, scared, and tired.

Looks like everyone is out.. except one guard, who is blind. Ori said to everyone.
Ugh.. I know now he feels.. Nobody grumbled.
Did you talk to him? He may have some idea what happened. Harper asked.
Talk to the blind guy. Gio thought, at the same moment.
The blind man may be able to help. Nadi suggested, simultaneously.

Nah. Ori said with a dismissive wave of the hand that only Becca could actually see.
Harper's voice took on an undercurrent of irritation. Why the hell not?
Ori shrugged. It's a hunch. He's not important.
Gio and Nobody let out exasperated complaints, and Harper somehow managed to convey that she was rolling her eyes, just by the inflection in her voice. Becca...
Yeah, I'm on it. Becca replied.

She stepped around Ori and walked towards the blind man, letting her boots fall loudly on the floor, so he's hear her coming.
The guard froze. "Whose there?"
"Friend of Volkas.. we came to see him and saw that you looked like you needed help. What happened?"

The guard swallowed and took a shaky breath. "Yeah.. I recognize your voice..don't know what happened.. everything just suddenly went dark.. all the lights, I guess. I've been trying to make my way back to the security office for an hour.."
Becca and Ori exchanged a look. Stepping Feather was probably long gone by now.
Becca waved a hand in front of the guards face. "Is everything still dark now..?"
"Can you show us where the security office is?" Ori asked.
Becca blinked at him, then covered her face with one hand, shaking her head.
Ori scowled. "I mean tell us what direction its in.."
"There are signs.." The guard motioned vaguely towards one wall, which had directional arrows leading to the office. They helped the guard back, and let him sink down into a chair on the far side of the room. Becca shivered. The last time she'd been in here, there had been a man with a newspaper shoved down his throat so hard it killed him. She hugged herself and tried not to think about it.

"There are security tapes.." The guard said.
"Ah! My specialty. Lets see what we've got." Ori said, leaning over the keyboard.

He rewound the tapes and played them forward at double speed, until an unfamiliar figure appeared. A man in what appeared to be stolen thrift store garb entered the library, and guards started to fall unconscious. One camera showed Volkas look up sharply, jumping to his feet and knocking over the chair right before 9 huge dire wolves made of solid shadows flowed out of the book shelves and lunge for him. He tensed, but before he could move to defend himself, Stepping Feather stepped up silently behind him and brings the coffee machine down across the back of his head. Volkas slumped to the floor. Then he was gone.

Ori took the footage and motioned to Becca. They headed back up the stairs to check on Volkas.

He was still unconscious.

"I have an idea." Ori strode over to the counter where Volkas kept the coffee and grabbed a bag of it. He opened the top and waved it under Volkas' nose, waiting expectantly.

Nothing happened.

"Wow...you really have a gift, you know that?" Becca shook her head and stepped over to the cabinet, pulling down the first aid kit that was sitting on the top shelf. She pulled out a small packet of smelling salts, shouldered Ori out of the way, and held them under the unconscious werewolf's nose before tearing them open.

Volkas came too coughing and sputtering. Becca and Ori both jumped back quickly as soon as he moved, wary of how he might react upon waking.

Volkas groaned and rubbed the back of his head. Becca helped him stand. Ori grabbed a damp towel and tossed it to him. Volkas started wiping the blood from his face and head. "He appeared from no wheres..."

"Yeah.. uh..I'd make you coffee.. but.." Ori held up the plastic handle of the coffee carafe, and gestered helplessly to the wreckage on the floor.
Volkas waved a hand dismissively. "Eh.. easy enough to replace. Was your uncle, yes?"
Ori nodded, expression turning grave.
Volkas turned slowly, taking in the room, then grunted, pulling out a file drawer. "He took records."
Ori blinked. "Records? Didn't see that on the tapes.."
Volkas shrugged and closed the drawer. "Cook County records it seems. Do you have the tapes?"
Ori nodded and handed him the footage.
Volkas took it from him. "I will take care of this. Go find your uncle. He is not here, now."
"Will do.. uh.. see ya..sorry.."
Volkas grunted and waved them away, then turned to grab a broom.

Ori and Becca exchanged a glance and headed silently to the door.


The Shedd parking lot was mostly empty. Nobody and Larissa approached the doors quietly, Nobody's head whipping this way and that, on the lookout for danger. Larissa just stared straight ahead, sunglasses still in place, red tipped cane swinging in front of her silently. The lock on the doors posed little problem to the changeling, and they slipped inside.

There weren't many lights in the Shedd during off hours. A few safety lights gave just enough illumination to make the place more creepy, rather than less.

Fucking vampires.. Nobody grumbled, internally. He didn't hear Harper say a word, but felt the distinct impression that she was laughing at him.

The weird shit didn't start until they made it into the main area of the building. Nobody looked up sharply, and held a hand out to stop Larissa. By the glow of the safety lights, he could see fog rolling slowly towards them. It hung low to the ground, and flowed around the floor independent of any air currents in the room.

There's fog on the ground.. don't know what it is..

Larissa nodded slightly. I'm stepping sideways. And then she was just gone. Nobody continued to watch the fog suspiciously.What do you see? He asked.
I don't. Larissa responded, her tone dry.
Nobody groaned silently. Man.. I just pulled a Tommy..
She didn't laugh, but Nobody could perceive her amusement nonetheless. There are a lot of spirits..
Any Stepping Feather might have talked to? Nobody asked, staring at the approaching mist.
I doubt he had many words with the fish spirits. She replied, drolly.

Nobody took a few careful steps back as the fog rolled towards his feet. The fog is still coming.
Larissa sounded distracted when she thought, There is something over here... but I don't know what..

Nobody took another step back and scowled at the floor. Fuck this.

Suddenly, the whole aquarium was full of light. Fish darted back into their holes, startled by the sudden illumination. Nobdy stood in the middle of it all, giving off rays like the noonday sun.

And it revealed the Larvae, crouched in what had been darkness. Before Nobody could utter a word, the vampire charged him, landing a closed fist blow to his chest.

Nobody jumped back, sucking in the breath that had just been knocked out of him and prepared for another charge, knives appearing in his hands... but the Larve just stood there. Muscles twitching in an effort to restrain himself, and eyed Nobody's weapons.

A bestial growl trickled from his throat. Nobody glared, but gave no ground.

The larvae increased the volume of his growl, and razor sharp claws slid silently from the tips of his fingers.

"Okay! Okay!" Nobody said, finally, and let the knives clatter to the floor.

The Larvae seemed greatly disappointed. 

A moment later, a huge dire wolf appeared in the middle of the room, jaws locked around what appeared to be nothing but a shadow. She jerked and pulled, and the shadow wrestled right back.

Nobody threw up his hands. "Woah! Hey! Both of you stop! We're on the same side!" Then he added in a quieter voice, to himself, "more or less.."

"Her first!" The shadow snarled.

"Larissa." Nobody said, the word more a gentle request than a harsh command. Larissa's eyes darted to him and she hesitated briefly, then released the shadow who had solidified into the form of Thaddeus, the khaibit. She allowed herself to shift into human form.

The Larvae started to stalk towards the blind werewolf, claws tensed. Thaddeus held up a hand. "Stand down." His was much more a harsh command than a gentle request. The Larvae stopped, body shivering with suppressed rage.

"I didn't realize the Shedd would be guarded from there." Larissa said, her tone approving.
"Too many of you running around this town for it not to be." Thaddeus said in a rough voice. "Why are you here?"
"Looking for our friend." Nobody said, eyes still resting on the Larvae.
Thaddeus crossed his arms and scowled at them both. "You could have, you know.. called."
"Sorry. Harper didn't tell me the place was guarded all the time. She's rather incompetent." Nobody responded sourly. He made sure everyone on the mental channel heard him say it. A few of the others chuckled, but Harper didn't say a word. However, he again got the impression of smug amusement, with a slight under current of annoyance that gave him at least minor satisfaction.

Thaddeus shook his head. "He hasn't been here."
"Okay.. sorry for the intrusion." His eyes flicked between Thaddeus and the Larvae. "Can I take my knives, or is your pet going to gut me?"
Thaddeus' eyes glinted with dark amusement. "He isn't my pet."
"But you can get him to back off." Nobody said, giving Thaddeus a pointed look.
Thaddeus' mouth twitched into a small smirk. "Take your knives. Get out."

Nobody bent to retrieve his weapons, keeping his eyes on both vampires. He took larissa by the hand and slowly backed out out of the room. he didn't turn around until the doors were shut behind him. He exhaled harshly and re-sheathed his knives. What the hell, Harper?!

He felt what passed for a mental shrug from her. Honestly? I didn't know it would be guarded 24/7. I'm not all knowing when it comes to other vampires. I rarely participate in their bullshit.

Fucking incompetent Nobody muttered, and continued grumbling all the way back to the shop, using terms like 'secret monger' 'completely useless' and 'dragged out into the sun' in as many colorful variations as he could think of.


Giovanni pulled out his cell and hit a speed dial number. Sansome answered on the second ring. "What do you need, Gio?"
"We're still hunting for Stepping Feather.. and I was wondering if you'd seen hide or hair of him at the house."
"Nah, he hasn't been around, far as we can tell."
"Okay, keep an eye peeled for me?"
"Where's Bella tonight?" Gio asked.
"Tower. Why?"
Gio gave a low chuckle. "Oh this is going to be fun..."
Sansome sighed and hung up the phone.

Giovanni and Roxanne pulled up the the Tower not long after that. The guys at the security desk nodded Gio through, but glared daggers at Roxanne, barring her entrance. The look said that there was no way that she was getting through. Roxanne gave them a grin that was more a bearing of teeth.

The guards both stood, muscles tensing.

"Oh for Pete's sake.. she's with me." Giovanni said, annoyed. the guards didn't look happy about it, but they backed off. Roxanne strode through the metal detector and the machine didn't so much as beep. The huge shard of glass she wore openly on her hip gleamed her defiance at the machine.

They hit the elevator, and Giovanni let his eyes unfocus, and began to feel the pulse of the entire building. It was a nifty tool to have, and would make their search much faster. He could sense everyone in it. Vitorri and Bella where in the penthouse, a few others scattered here and there...

And one person in intense pain and feeling immense fear was in the security office.

"Something's wrong in the security office.." he said, his voice quiet and distant.
Roxanne glared at him. "Where?"
"We're going there now.." And suddenly the elevator began to go back down, stopping two floors below. The doors rolled open almost before the car came to a complete stop and Roxanne was off like a bolt of lightning.
"Third door on the left!" Gio called after her, then hurried out of the elevator himself.

He remember to feign the limp again right before he got to the door. The smell of blood was thick in the air as he stepped inside the office.  One man wearing the security uniform was dead, crumpled in a bloody heap on the floor. Roxanne stood over the other, his thigh torn open in a long gash, blood flowing freely from the severed artery. He was getting very pale, very fast.

Next to him, there was a young man duct taped to a chair. His chin was resting on his chest, his face a mask of bruises, cuts and blood. A few of his fingers were bent at odd angles. He was barely conscious. Giovanni limped over and raised the kids chin to get a good look at his face.

Giovanni's expression split into a huge grin and he lowered the kid's chin gently. "We're taking him with us."
Roxanne regarded the prisoner with a sneer of contempt. "Weakness."
Gio frowned at her. "Short sightedness." He reached down and started peeling away the duct tape.

Roxanne shouldered him gently out of the way. "I'll get him. You've got a bad leg." She gave him a pointed look, then her eyes flicked briefly to the wounded guard. Giovanni gave her a faint nod, then stepped foward and glared down at the bleeding man.

He forced the man to crane his neck to look up at him. He wasn't about to get down on the guards level. He was above that.

And besides, its hard to crouch with a gimp leg.

"What the hell were you doing?" 
"Following.. orders.." The guard gasped.
"Whose orders?" Gio demanded. His voice carried an air of indignant authority.
The man opened his mouth to speak, to give him a name.. and then he started to choke. He began clawing at his throat, gagging and wheezing as dozens of black beetles began flowing out of his mouth in waves. Giovanni watched, perplexed, as the man died from a combination of blood loss and suffocation. The beetles scurried away.

"Interesting." Giovanni turned his back and walked out of the room, following Roxanne to the elevator.

We're bringing someone home. He broadcast to the whole group. His tone was smug.
Who? Harper asked immediately.
Its a surprise! He thought cheerfully.
He grinned at the annoyed growl that proceeded her next question. Not Stepping Feather?
No. He was never here.. but its someone who should be just as dead. He replied. He ignored the rest of the questions from everyone else, content to make them wait until everyone was home to reveal the identity of the kid laying across the backseat.

He glanced up to the mirrored windows of the penthouse as they drove away, giving the steering wheel a thump with his fist to punctuate his disappointment.

He'd really been hoping to get Bella and Roxanne in the same room and watch the show...


(((I'm stopping here for this post since it is already so very long. I will try to post the second half of this scene tomorrow, but if i can't manage it, it will be next week.)))

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